How we consume news media has evolved rapidly; technological advances and increased Internet dependency means that it is harder than ever to avoid being bombarded with negative news. Especially as we are caught in the middle of a global pandemic. Perpetually updating news floods our timelines – and headspace. This means that regardless of your resilience, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and for anxiety to set in.
Although it is important to be informed about relevant government guidelines and world issues, safeguarding your mental health should be your top priority. Here are four top tips to help you put positive strategies in place for a healthy media consumption:
Manage your consumption
Create guidelines for yourself to avoid constant consumption by experimenting with different habits to see which methods improve your wellbeing. These may include setting specific limited times to check the news, such as five minutes in the morning and evening. Additionally, you can arrange your routine so that you do something relaxing or enjoyable immediately after, such as sitting in the garden with a cup of tea or giving your pet a cuddle.
If you are really struggling, consider taking a longer break from the Internet. If this is impossible, due to work duties or otherwise, try blocking news apps or websites that are unnecessary. You can always unblock them at a time that suits you.
Counter the negativity
It can often seem like there is no good news. However, this is partially because heart-breaking and sensational stories attract greater readership and therefore get more coverage. Additionally, we tend to experience a negative cognitive bias*, whereby distressing information and memories are more easily accessible than positive ones. People who struggle with their mental health may experience this bias to a greater extent. This is especially true for those who have depression, meaning it can be very difficult to maintain a positive headspace.
Attempt to counter these publication and cognitive biases, by balancing the scales with uplifting and inspiring news and reminders of joy. One method could be to follow positive news websites and social media accounts. The Happy Newspaper is a platform that shares only good news, and Happiful Magazine also shares life stories and news to create a happier society. There are many other great sites available online and offline.
On a more personal level, why not try jotting down a list of anything that makes you feel happy? These can be as seemingly trivial as your morning coffee, or as instrumental as your family or friends. Additionally, you can fill your space with images that inspire joy, such as beautiful scenery, or photographs that capture happy memories or loved ones. Little doses of happiness can go a long way and remind you of the good things in your life.
When you feel helpless and out of control, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about can help you regain hope and a sense of purpose. There are so many worthy causes and so many ways to contribute. It means you don’t need a lot of time or money to make a difference. If everyone contributed to a cause they cared about, whether it’s equality, mental health, environmental issues or otherwise, the world would be a much better place to live in.
‘Giving back’ is considered one of five key ways to improve your wellbeing**. This could involve any attempt to improve the lives of others or the world at large, whether it’s little random acts of kindness or inspiring change on a larger scale. Additionally, witnessing other people caring and contributing can serve as an important reminder that there is still good in the world, if you take the time to look.
Be kind to yourself
At every opportunity, we should endeavour to make choices that minimise suffering and better the world. However, we are fallible imperfect human beings living in an enormous and complicated world, and sometimes just getting through the day is difficult enough. You are not obligated to remain entirely informed about every detail of every crisis. Do what you can to educate yourself and contribute, but not at the expense of your mental health. There is truth in the cliché about putting on your own air mask first; you need to take care of yourself before you can help others.
If you are struggling with your mental health, the first step is to make an appointment with your GP. But, if you find yourself in danger or a crisis, please ring 999. The Samaritans provide a listening ear at all times on 116 123, Freephone.
Visit dorsetmind.uk for resources and local mental health support, including a range of online services without waiting times. If you would like to help improve mental health in Dorset, visit dorsetmind.uk/get-involved to explore volunteer roles and fundraising opportunities with the charity.
* Negative cognitive bias: https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-bias-4589618
** The Five Ways to Wellbeing: https://dorsetmind.uk/help-and-support/self-care-resources/five-ways-to-wellbeing
Thanks to Lucy for writing this blog.
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